KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 14 June 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. TURKMENISTAN: PROTESTANTS THREATENED WITH
PROPERTY CONFISCATION. Keston has learned that a group of
Turkmen Protestants have been threatened with the confiscation of all
their property - including their homes - if they continue to attend services
of their unregistered church. Confiscation of private property appears to
be the latest weapon in the Turkmen government's campaign to suppress
all religious activity except that of the Sunni Muslim Board and the
Russian Orthodox Church.

II. RUSSIA: WILL LOCAL RELIGION LAWS BE REVOKED?
Senior Russian officials have recognised that many local laws on
missionary activity violate the constitution, although some religious
representatives tried to defend these laws. Other religious groups have
already begun legal moves to challenge the constitutionality of such laws.

I. TURKMENISTAN: PROTESTANTS THREATENED WITH
PROPERTY CONFISCATION

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

A group of seven or eight Protestants in the north eastern town of
Turkmenabad (formerly Chardjou) have been threatened with the
confiscation of all their property - including their homes - if they
continue to attend services of their unregistered church, Protestant
sources have told Keston News Service. Confiscation of private property
used for religious activity the government regards as illegal appears to be
the latest weapon in the Turkmen government's campaign to suppress all
unregistered religious activity (which includes the activity of all religious
groups except the state-sanctioned Sunni Muslim Board and the Russian
Orthodox Church).

Sources told Keston that the Protestants - who had each been fined
250,000 manats (one month's minimum wages) in April for involvement
in their church - were summoned by the political police, the KNB (former
KGB), at the end of May. There they were threatened that if they did not
halt their involvement with the church, all their property would be
confiscated. The sources declined to allow the denominational affiliation
of those summoned to be published for fear of making their position
worse.

Local Protestants allege that the Russian Orthodox leadership had a role
in the moves against the Protestants, but Keston has been unable to
confirm these claims.

Property confiscation as a means of suppressing religious activity appears
to have begun at the end of last year, with the confiscation of the homes
of four young Protestants and their families, who have since fled the
country. Since then the Pentecostal and Baptist churches in the capital
Ashgabad have been confiscated, while the home of a family of Jehovah's
Witnesses in Ashgabad is currently in the process of confiscation. In each
of these cases the authorities have alleged that the properties were being
used 'not for their true purpose', despite that fact that Turkmen law does
not specifically ban unregistered religious activity and specifically allows
religious activity in private homes. (END)

II. RUSSIA: WILL LOCAL RELIGION LAWS BE REVOKED?

by Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

The inaugural meeting of the reconstituted Council for Co-operation with
Religious Organisations under the Russian President, heard differing
views on regional legislation on missionary activity, with senior officials
recognising that many contained provisions violating the constitution,
while some religious representatives tried to defend them.

The meeting, which took place on 29 May in the offices of the
presidential administration and was chaired by Aleksandr Voloshin,
discussed progress on work `to introduce standard legal documents to the
subjects of the Russian Federation relating to freedom of conscience in
accordance with the Russian constitution and with federal laws'.

Deputy minister of justice Yevgeny Sidorenko told the Council that in 33
of the Russian Federation's 89 'subjects' (administrative regions), some
50 laws and regulations had been adopted on the activity of religious
associations of which his ministry had deemed 35 to be unconstitutional.
He highlighted infringements of the following articles of the constitution:

Art. 71 `The Russian Federation includes within its remit the regulation
and protection of civic and human rights and freedom' (where he believed
many of the regions had gone beyond their remit);

Art. 14: `Religious associations are separate from the state and are equal
before the law';

Art. 62: `Foreign citizens and individuals who do not have citizenship
have equal rights and responsibilities to those of citizens of the Russian
Federation'.

Asked if any regions had managed to bring local legislation on freedom
of conscience into line with federal law, Sidorenko named six where the
Ministry of Justice had revoked local legislation: Oryol, Lipetsk, Tula,
Arkhangelsk, Ryazan and Udmurtia. Amendments had been made to
local legislation in Bashkiria, Ossetia, Tyumen and Perm. Twenty-two
regions had failed to bring their legislation into conformity with the
constitution, he noted.

Some religious groups have already begun legal moves to challenge the
constitutionality of such regional religious laws. On 31 May
representatives of religious organisations in Belgorod lodged an appeal
with the constitutional court calling for the regional law on missionary
activity to be revoked.

At the Moscow meeting, Sidorenko stressed that missionary activity
could not be regulated by law. A senior hierarch of the Moscow
Patriarchate, Metropolitan Yuvenaly (Poyarkov) of Krutitsy and
Kolomna, a member of the Council, raised an objection with the deputy
minister. `Once local legislation is adopted it means that it has been
adopted deliberately, and we need to understand the reasons for its
appearance.' Metropolitan Yuvenaly suggested inviting representatives
from the Federation's regions to the next meeting, so that they could
explain why they had adopted these laws and how they would `proceed in
the future without these laws'.

However, Pyotr Konovalchik, leader of the Evangelical Christians-
Baptists, strongly rejected such an invitation: `There is no reason to listen
to the excuses of those who have broken the law.' He was supported by
Ravil Gainutdin, head of the Russian Council of Muftis, who complained
that `local laws are adopted in an attempt to improve the situation, but
often the situation deteriorates because of their effect.' (END)